Johns Creek moves to fix school zone signage

Accusations of ‘speed trap’ spur action

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – After two Johns Creek residents lodged complaints about what they termed a “speed trap” in the city, it appears officials are taking steps to make signage more explicit near Ocee Elementary School at the intersection of Kimball Bridge Road and State Bridge Road.

Two residents say they were cited for speeding in the Ocee ES school zone, but they say there is a hole in the city’s signage system. When they tried to explain this to officials, it fell on deaf ears.

Keith Noelen and another man, who asked his name not be used, were in traffic court the same day. Noelen heard the other man explaining to the solicitor why someone making a turn northbound from Kimball Bridge Road onto eastbound State Bridge Road would almost certainly miss the “Entering School Zone” flashing light on State Bridge.

They compared notes and decided the city was not interested in addressing the “hole” in the signage for the school.

They were upset when they went to traffic court and were not allowed to “explain” the situation.

Noelen said he was “completely surprised” when he got a ticket.

“I am a big advocate for following the speed limits, especially at schools. But coming down the street, I passed an ‘End School Zone’ sign. I had no idea when I turned [right] onto State Bridge that I re-entered the school zone,” Noelen said.

When he retraced his steps, he found that the flashing light on State Bridge is at the intersection that forces traffic turning northbound onto State Bridge and is fixed in front of a “yield” lane that arcs about 100 degrees to feed Kimball traffic into State Bridge.

That Kimball traffic must stare in the opposite direction of the flashing sign to look for oncoming traffic.

Johns Creek Communications Manager Doug Nurse said the city was diligent in erecting another sign on Kimball Bridge near the intersection that now instructs traffic that a right turn onto State Bridge Road is entering the Ocee school zone again.

“We are looking at additional options as well. The signs are placed appropriately and legally. But we are willing to go beyond that. There are discussions about lettering the Kimball turn lane on the pavement to say ‘Entering School Zone,’ and possibly repeat that on State Bridge Road,” Nurse said.

Just erecting more signs is not always a good measure, Nurse said. Too many signs just add to visual clutter and get tuned out. That is why existing signage flashes yellow.

The city is also considering petitioning the Georgia Department of Transportation to allow the city to extend the school zone through the Kimball-State Bridge intersection. That would allow city to eliminate the gap, Nurse said.

“Once we were aware there was a problem, the city took steps,” Nurse said.

However, that would mean moving several signs.

City Solicitor William Riley said the citizens don’t have the option “to explain” the situation in traffic court. Their initial appearance is similar to an arraignment.

“They can plead guilty, not guilty or no contest. They can have a conference with me and I might reduce the charges. But all they want to do is talk to the judge in the hopes of getting a dismissal,” Riley said.

“First, the judge does not have the authority to dismiss a case,” he said. “If they want to challenge the ticket, they have to plead and then come back before the judge.”

The anonymous citizen said he did not have the time to come back at a later date.

“I hoped to sit down and show them in a straightforward way they have a problem. But they don’t want to do that. They just want to collect the fines,” he said.

Riley said that is not true. But there are procedures that must be followed.

“My job is to run the court efficiently,” he said. “At their appearance, the citizens may ask me some questions and decide on what course of action they want to take. But they don’t get to sit down with the judge and discuss the case.

“If we allowed everyone who didn’t see the sign to get off, we would be letting a lot of people off very quickly,” Riley said.

City Councilman Lenny Zaprowski and Mayor Mike Bodker were asked about the situation and promised to look into it.

Contacted again, Zaprowski said he was satisfied the city was responding.

“The idea isn’t to write a bunch of tickets. The idea is to get people to slow down. So it is our job to make sure people understand they need to slow down,” Zaprowski said. “What we are after is to protect the children when they are coming and leaving school.”

Zaprowski said he would be checking on the corrections to see that they “solve the

JC 03-06-14